Best Place to Kayak 2005 | John D. MacArthur Beach State Park | Sports | South Florida

You'd think that having your own private island would be too pricey for the working stiffs. But there's a private stretch of sand on Munyon Island at John D. MacArthur Beach State Park that's easily accessible for saps like you and me. Munyon is just a short kayak trip across the park's lagoon estuary, which is ideal for beginners, with its waist-deep water. The kayak rental will set you back $10 an hour for a single or $15 for a two-person, or $25 and $40 for a half-day trip. You'll paddle past roseate spoonbills, silver mullets, and feeding pelicans before landing along the soft sand of Munyon. There's even a covered picnic spot hidden in the trees. On most days, you'll share the island only with the hermit crabs, which will make this your own private island, at least for a day.

If you like to run, well, you're crazy. We mean, it's almost summer in South Florida, and even if you jog at midnight, you'll sweat like a pig. You'll suffer. Of course, you may end up healthier, but then again, you may end up dead. So we recommend drinking heavily. Still want to exercise? Try the 8.5-mile Hollywood Broadwalk course set by the South Florida Striders, who sponsor a fun run every Wednesday at 6:15 p.m.. The course starts at the bandshell, which is located on Johnson Street at the beach. Head north along the Broadwalk to Dania Beach pier -- you'll see some stunning vistas and get a good look at humanity (meaning albino-like, shirtless, Québecois tourists) along the way. Then turn around and head back south to the Jefferson Street parking lot. Turn around again and return to the bandshell. There are three great advantages to this course: (1) There are showers along the way, so you can cool off; (2) it's measured, so you know how far you've gone; (3) Nick's Bar and Restaurant (954-920-2800) is located just north of the course's end, so you can suck down a cool Kalik when you finish.

Tourists will probably want to take the Jungle Queen to gawk at the waterfront mansions or wallow among the plastic-surgery disasters downtown, but natives have already seen too much of that. For a taste of what the river looked like back in the day when Frank and Ivy Stranahan's clapboard house was the sole example of prime real estate in Fort Lauderdale, try the New River Trail in Secret Woods Nature Center. The 3,200-foot, wheelchair accessible boardwalk winds through live oak hammocks, over a swamp, and under a green canopy of cypress and maples. The New River here is untouched and untamed, teeming with fish, manatees, tiny crabs, pond apple and mangrove trees, wading birds -- and no mansions and only the occasional yacht to mess up your pure, unadulterated nature moment. With gleaming condo buildings growing like beanstalks downtown, it's tough to come by such a pleasant way to experience the river.

What makes this spot so damned unknown is the fact that it's so damned hard to get to. Here's how it works. Park your car at one of the very few public spots along North Ocean Boulevard in Palm Beach -- you know, near Rush Limbaugh and the other millionaires. Now, either take a bike north to the island's farthest tip along North Ocean Way or hoof your ass across the soft sand for the two-mile trip. Along the rock jetty, swim into a world that most people have to pay a dive company to take them to. A reef has grown along these rocks, with living coral and undulating schools of sea life. Make sure you go at high tide, because low tide brings a cloud of silt and trash from the inlet. As long as they don't install parking spots nearby -- and you can bet those gazillionaires who live along the beach here won't let them -- this place will remain a hidden snorkeling spot that rivals anything north of the Keys.

Never mind Viagra -- every lap around the mountain bike trails in Quiet Waters Park will help your cojones get bigger. When you first start going around the 5.5-mile loop, you can take the novice route, which is full of cheat chutes that let you circumvent the steep drops and hard parts. If you crash on this trail -- which is well-marked with green signs -- well, you'd be pretty pathetic, but you'd fall onto a layer of pine needles that feels like a bed of Charmin. As soon as you become more confident, start tackling the harder trails in all their root-, rock-, and sand-bound glory. One section of single track is covered with tree branches and feels like you're tunneling through a cave; another section forces you to make tricky drops while trying not to fall in the lake. In addition to the roller coaster-esque cruise around the park, there is a trick area with teeter-totters and jumps for all levels of ability. Wear a helmet, keep at it, and soon you'll be swapping pictures of your yard sales and bruises with the folks at Club Mud -- a mountain-biking group that brings machetes to the park each month and keeps the trails in shape. Once you've mastered the trails, join the Mudders for some laps -- at night!

Nothing makes you want to show off the panty lines under your spandex like a beautiful bike route. Hop on your hot wheels and ingest some cool scenery along the water. Start at the Intracoastal Waterway, right around Southern Boulevard and Flagler Drive in West Palm Beach. Once you've pedaled east, past the fishermen on the Southern Boulevard bridge and into the town of Palm Beach, Donald Trump's Mar-A-Lago estate will be on your left. Dodging cars at the rotary here and turning left (north) around the blind curve adds just enough danger to get your adrenaline up. Flow north with the traffic on A1A along the ocean, daydreaming about which mansion you'll buy when you become a famous supermodel. You can either hang a left on Royal Palm Way, which will put you on the Royal Park bridge back to the mainland, or keep cruising north, taking a forced left in front of Estee Lauder's house, hanging a right onto South County Road by the Bethesda-by-the-Sea church, and passing the swank Breakers resort before turning left on Royal Poinciana Way, which brings you back to the mainland on the Flagler Memorial Bridge. Once you hit the mainland, go left (south) on Flagler and suck up the breeze as you coast along the super-wide sidewalks along the Intracoastal back to your starting point at Southern. The longer route measures just over eight miles.

OK, so it's an obvious choice, but so was West Palm Beach's scenic, sinuous Flagler Drive as the setting for the first marathon ever held in Palm Beach County. Flagler's tree-lined ribbon of asphalt uncoils alongside the Intracoastal and weaves through several historic neighborhoods, displaying some of the area's most appealing assets along the way. Although the weather last November 14 was far from the subtropical splendor race officials had hoped for, an almost totally level course kept the competition as fierce as the wind and rain. More than 3,500 competitors from 17 countries took the challenge, but it was Kenyan runner Charles Kibiwot who broke the tape, finishing the 26.2-mile course in just under two hours and 20 minutes. The marathon offered some unusual local color as well: Part-time Palm Beach resident Donald Trump supplied his Trump Ice bottled water to filling stations along the course, some of which were occupied by volunteers dressed as hula dancers and tie-dyed hippies. It all came together flawlessly, and a second marathon, this one open to 5,000 runners, is scheduled for early December.

You've been to Naples, gotten lost in the Everglades, and burnt your epidermis on the beach. But have you ever circumnavigated the second-largest freshwater lake in the nation? It's a nice tour by car and takes you through five counties: Glades, Hendry, Palm Beach, Martin, and Okeechobee. Our preferred way to cruise around the 730-square-mile lake is counterclockwise. From Florida's southeast coast, head west for Belle Glade and then Pahokee. No need to linger, except to gawk at the poverty-prone towns that look more like old WPA photographs than part of 21st-century Palm Beach County. Continue north on Highway 441, but remember to stop and check out boats passing through the locks at Port Mayaca. Pelicans, double-crested cormorants, and great blue herons are some of the wading birds you'll see. On the north side of the lake is a bastion of Central Florida hickdom, the town of Okeechobee, a rowdy, rodeo-show retreat. Continue on past turf farms growing acres of sod and cows munching on grass until you're on the west side of the lake, home to marshland and citrus groves. This largely unpopulated flank sports a few sleepy old farming and fishing communities, with pickups parked along lonely canals, folks pulling catfish from the water all day long.

Curving down south, make time for a stop in Clewiston, where Angler's Marina offers one of the best views of the entire lake and the fleet of boats that ply its waters. Clewiston is also the finest place to stop for lunch. Dixie Fried Chicken (728 E. Sugarland Hwy.) can set you up with frog legs, gator tail, and catfish, but it would be a sin not to mention the best Mexican food anywhere in South Florida, which can be found from 4 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Tortilleria y Taqueria (645 S. San Jose St.). No-nonsense proprietress Magdaelena Azua serves bistec, pastor, and lengua tacos -- served on homemade corn tortillas -- which are startlingly cheap at $1.25 a pop. On the way home, stop off at the aptly named John Stretch Park in tiny Lake Harbor and walk to the top of the Herbert Hoover dike. Say goodbye to the hinterlands and its liquid heart of the Everglades and head for home.

The Marinelife Center has come a long way since its humble beginnings in 1983, when it opened in borrowed space in a real-estate agent's office. Now, the center cares for about 1,500 turtles a year. Most are hatchlings that couldn't make it to the ocean, but many are injured or sick sea turtles brought to the center for rehab. Fishing equipment and boat propellers cause the most damage. But turtles also convalesce at the center for shark bites and another widespread turtle ailment: flatulence. Yes, gas, which prevents turtles from sinking (as you'd guess, they're fed Beano). Visitors can view the turtles as they rehab in tanks in the center's backyard and watch as they're fed sardines by the six paid staff and a team of volunteers. During turtle egg-laying season in the summer, the center also leads nighttime beach walks and has a "junior marine biologist" program for teenagers. And soon, the center will spend $4 million in donations on a new, 10,000-square-foot facility that will triple its existing building. That is quite a ways from sharing space with a real-estate agent.

In his four years as a Miami Dolphin, Chris Chambers hasn't been the kind of player to make a showy victory dance in the end zone, even though he's been there more often than any other receiver on the team. He hasn't been the kind of player to boast about his accomplishments either, despite racking up better than 900 yards a season (a total of 3,478). So maybe it shouldn't be a surprise that last year, the Cleveland native bit his tongue as the Dolphins stank up the NFL. But it's a credit to Chambers that he not only avoided complaining during the Dolphins worst season in 35 years but that he also shone. The Wisconsin alumnus managed a career-high 69 catches, 974 yards, and seven touchdowns during a year when the offense was the NFL equivalent of junior varsity. Chambers credits his quiet demeanor to being a "nappy-headed" kid with an embarrassing chipped tooth. Nicknamed "Spiderman" as a teenager for his lanky limbs, the 26-year-old has shut up his childhood bullies with a gutsy performance on a team in which many veterans seemed to give up.

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